One of the places that I still need to visit in my neighborhood is the Forbes House in Milton. In the 1920s the home was owned by Mary Bowditch Forbes, who amassed a sizable collection of Civil War and Lincoln related memorabilia. The family were strong Unionists during the 1860s and were responsible for the construction of a number of gunboats and the organization of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company A.
In 1924 Mary welcomed local G.A.R. members to the house to unveil an exact replica of Lincoln’s boyhood home. The film portion of the video begins at the 2:40 mark. It’s well worth your time. You will even notice an African-American G.A.R. member, which I know will warm the heart of Barbara Gannon. Enjoy.
While I was in Gettysburg this past June for the CWI I took a few minutes to record a Civil War Trust Civil War in4 video with Garry Adelman on Civil War memory. I was way over-prepared and incredibly nervous. Let’s just say that I found it very difficult to whittle down this vast subject into a four minute segment, but somehow the editors managed to create some level of coherence out of the full recording.
Thanks so much to Garry for giving me my shot at stardom. I hope this serves as a useful introduction for teachers who are looking to introduce the subject to their middle school and high school classrooms. Finally, you need not worry as I promise not to quite my day job.
The other day I briefly noted my surprise by how little the war was being discussed in a conference devoted to Massachusetts and the Civil War. What I am struck by now looking back on the three days of talks at the MHS is the overwhelming emphasis on Boston’s abolitionist community. That should not come as a surprise given the location of the conference and the place of the abolitionists in local memory. I learned quite a bit about them and I accumulated a nice list of books and article from the papers, which were wisely precirculated.
By the end of the conference the abolitionists’ agenda had emerged as the dominant narrative of the Civil War. In fact, if this conference can be defined as reflecting a Civil War memory it would have to be that of the abolitionists themselves and their agenda beginning in the antebellum period through the war and into the era of Reconstruction. It was so palpable that even our understanding of the war’s meaning and the success or failure of Reconstruction had little chance of being critically examined without Garrison, Douglass, and the rest of the gang looking over our shoulders. There was little consideration of the importance of Union, as recently analyzed by Gary Gallagher in his new book, The Union War>, nor was there much of an attempt to distinguish between the goal of ending slavery and the question of civil rights. The war had been reduced to an agenda with racial equality as its ultimate goal. In short, it was all or nothing. Continue reading “Boston’s Civil War Memory or Lost Cause”